Friday, July 5, 2013

Help a Sistah/Fellow Traveler/Human Being Out!

Dear Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers,

As many of you know, I have been living in Thailand for the past year working as a kindergarten teacher in the northeastern province of Isaan in a city called Ubon Ratchathani.  It’s been an amazing, challenging, and incredibly eye-opening experience, one which I was certain would end once my year-long contract was up. However,  an opportunity has presented itself in the form of a volunteer placement in Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka at the Turtle Conservation Project located there.


To give you an idea of what this entails, I would be working with injured and sick turtles, raising awareness for environmental stewardship, cleaning the beach, releasing baby turtles into the sea, and working alongside a local team to “ protect critically endangered sea turtles from extinction.” I would also have the chance to teach English to the local community, including Buddhist monks. This is all organized through International Volunteer Headquarters, a global volunteer program based in New Zealand which seeks to provide aid and assistance to developing countries in the areas of greatest need. I have included links at the bottom of the page directing you to both the “About Us” and “Sri Lanka Volunteer” sections of their website. For more details, please feel free to check there!


While I agree that fresh seafood is amazing, the practices used to obtain it are not, and they adversely affect marine habitats. Unfortunately, sea turtles are at the top of the list in terms of creatures endangered by commercial fishing, habitat loss, climate change, and illegal trade throughout international waters. While your livelihood may not depend on sea turtles, many sea-faring cultures around the world do depend on them. All parts of an ecosystem are significant and necessary, and losing even one part of that chain allows all other parts to follow over time. 

Many of the beautiful beaches you have seen or traveled too depend on sea turtles to maintain their beauty and prevent erosion. For example, Naples in Florida is home to a large portion of loggerhead sea turtles. If these creatures were to disappear, sand dunes would erode and swaying beach grasses would be depleted from a lack of nutrients derived from sea turtle shells, hatchlings, and nests left after the nesting season. I am in no way asking you to stop eating seafood, I certainly haven’t, or even to become a diehard environmentalist; I am simply asking you to consider donating to the cause so that I can go and try to make a difference in protecting our beautiful oceans and all those that live in and around them. 

Personally, I have fond memories of playing amongst the dunes down on the Cape and in Florida as a child. This world has so much to offer, and yet it is so fragile. We truly hold it in the palm of our hands, and it is our job, at least in part, to help preserve it. 

  • PayPal Account
  • Check (Mailed to given address)
  • Cash Donation (Given to my parents for safekeeping until I return from Thailand)

As Chief Seattle once said so profoundly, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Think about where you would like to take your children and grandchildren someday, where you want them to go on their own. Please help me in raising awareness about marine habitats and in protecting these peaceful, docile creatures. Your donation will not only go towards conserving these mammals

Sincerely yours,
Emma Murray

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summertime and the Livin's Easy: Northeast India


Hey there everyone. It's been quite a while since I've written a blog, and I am really sorry! Especially to my family members and friends who don't have Facebook or email. It looks like my last blog upload was in February, so long ago I am going to have to dust away the cobwebs up in my brain to let you all know just what has been going on in my life. I will start by saying that each day I am abroad, I learn something new about myself and the world around me. The world is a much smaller and more accessible place than a lot of people give it credit for. I would have never thought about hopping in my car or on a plane for a visit anywhere in the U.S.A prior to my move across the world, but now that I realize how easy it is and how many wonderful, reliable people you meet along your way who can give you a place to stay or a cold beer to drink, it's not as unfeasible of a situation.

I know my leaving home and the United States has been especially hard on my parents, but I am actually the happiest I've ever been, at least in my adult life. Yeah, I still have ups and downs because I'm a human, but each day I wake up and feel so blessed to have this opportunity to touch other people's lives while having my own life enriched by others. I think I may have learned the most from the children I've worked with both in Thailand and in India (I'll talk about India a little later). Children are just so genuinely, unfathomably, and wildly happy and carefree that it makes you wonder why, perhaps, you too are not that way anymore. I'm not going to get all idealistic on you, but there is something about the way a five-year old laughs or the look on their face when they finally understand or learn something new. The world is an empty canvas to them in so many ways, and I feel that I have almost started anew in a similar way. I am not ready to settle down or stop seeing everything this magnificent Earth has to offer; not that I think settling down is settling, per se, it's just not for me right now. Once you step so far out of your comfort zone, it's difficult to imagine going back anytime soon.

As my boy Michael Franti once said "It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see the less I know," and that holds so much truth and honesty for me. Each and every place I visit, person I meet, or thing I do, I really feel that I know so little about the world around me and about myself as I fit into that world. It's difficult to explain, but I feel more confident in myself and in my ability than I ever have before, yet I still feel as though I know so little about myself. That does not scare me, however, so much as it makes me want to see more, learn more, experience more in order to find my true self. I think that we are always changing and finding ourselves throughout our entire lives, and wouldn't it be a shame to lose that to a job you're not happy with or stuck in a relationship that doesn't suit you? Anyhoo, I guess I'll start talking about the last few months and see where that gets us-I'll try not to make you yawn too much.


On March 8th, I left Ubon for Bangkok to stay with my good friend Wendy Goldsmith for a few days before flying to India for just under a month. You see, we had summer break in March and April since those are two of the hottest months here in Thailand. My good friend and fellow Assumption teacher Zach Ezung is originally from northeast India (specifically, Nagaland), and he invited myself and one of my best friends in Thailand Eliza Arsenault to volunteer teach at the school he helped found in Jonglapara, India in the Meghalaya province. This was probably one of the best things I have ever done.

The children at the Montfort School in Jongla quite literally have the clothing that is on their backs, maybe a bicycle, and the biggest hearts I have ever encountered. Eliza and I were two of the first Westerners to physically visit this area of northeast India, and everywhere we went, we were received with open arms, delicious food, hugs, handwoven scarves, and so much love. While I love being in Thailand, I noticed a stark difference between the students at Assumption and the students at Montfort. Both schools are St. Gabriel's Foundation-associated institutions, and yet they could not be more different. First of all, nearly everyone speaks fluent English, even some of the youngest students. They have such a bonafide love for learning, such as I have never seen. They show the utmost respect to their elders and really love their friends and fellow classmates. They actually want to learn and listen, and would not dare speak over the teacher or act inappropriately in class. These children are so beautiful sometimes it's hard to imagine that they will likely never leave northeast India.

This corner of India is essentially it's own country by all other aspects than it's flag and government. The people are incredible diverse; I will admit, I thought that all Indians looked like Kumar from "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle." That's not meant to be offensive, it's just the honest truth. However, people in northeast India come from a rainbow of backgrounds including Myanmar/Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, China, Tibet, Nepal, and even Laos and Cambodia. They live in tribes, which are essentially villages or towns united by a local, tribal language. In fact, most of them speak very little Hindi and use either their local dialect or English where possible. These languages are known as "mother tongues," and there are indeed over 1,600 of these mother tongues in India.

Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, is widely practiced in this corner of India and the people are some of the most devout I have ever encountered (that's saying a lot coming from someone who was raised in Massachusetts in an Irish Catholic family). They attend church every week at least twice in addition to the Sunday Mass. Eliza and I were also there for Easter which was quite the experience; we walked through the stations of the cross all around the property, going up hills and walking through some jungle undergrowth, complete with a local kid acting as Jesus carrying a huge wooden cross.

We ended the trip with a visit to Shillong/Cherrapunji. Shillong is a beautiful city in northeast India which used to be a British hill station back in the day, and Cherrapunji is famous for being the rainiest place on Earth. I'll put some pictures up, but unfortunately we did not get to see the true volume of the rain or the waterfalls as we visited during the dry season. However, the harrowing mountain roads with drop-offs literally thousands of feet to the bottom of steep valleys and the general beauty of the region was enough to suffice and terrify me for a little while.

If anyone is bored and looking for a new song to add to their repertoire...

The next leg of our journey took us to New Delhi/Agra, India.

Holy crap! I saw the Taj Mahal (ताज महल)! Once again, every place I travel to and/or visit in the past year is like a shock to my system because I never imagined being able to see some of the things I have seen. I learned about the Taj Mahal from the History Channel/National Geographic; it's sort of a place of mystery not only in it's beautiful history but also in the fact that it lies in India, a place known only to me previously from "The Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden." More recently, I had seen an article about how they are probably shutting the Taj Mahal to the public in the next decade or so due to the defacement and overcrowding which is contributing the this beautiful monument's demise.

11 Places to See Before They Disappear

Sometimes, one visits a place they had heard about or seen on television with much higher expectations than what they actually see. The Taj Mahal is NOT one of those places. It's absolutely magnificent, and to be truthful, there are no words that would accurately give this monument justice. The white and black marble is so smooth and unmarked, the gorgeous stone inlaid designs are a testament to the lost art of stonework and painstaking patience. Most importantly, to me at least, is the fact that this building was erected as a mausoleum to honor Emperor Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Um...pretty sure that sets the bar pretty high for any the whole world. So romantic! 

I'll just let these pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Outside of the Taj Mahal! 

Our tour guide messed up the ONE shot that matters. Just kidding, but he really did mess it up for me.

From a few kilometers off.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life Update Via Pictures!

So, it's been quite a while since I've updated this blog for you all so I am just going to go tumblr with it and post a bunch of pictures with captions! 

Birthday Pics:
1. Parental Presents: I got a sweet package from my parents a few weeks before my birthday. It was the ultimate Christmas-away-from-home kit (ELF, my Christmas stocking, etc). And my new obsession: Guerlain's Le Petit Robe Noir Parfum. Thanks rents!
2. Birthday Party Dinner: My Thai friends and foreign friends came out to dinner for my 23rd birthday at Ant Pub. We drank our way through six Singha towers and had a delicious dinner. The best part was that my three Thai friends Opal, Jao, and Lalitta sang "Happy Birthday" to me on stage and gave me a cake in front of the whole place.
3. One of my awesome Thai co-teachers gave me this beautiful Buddha pendant.

1. These are two of my kindergarten students. Rin is the adorable one in the pink taffeta dress (KG 2/1) and Mellisa is the fairy (KG 3/1). This was at the Assumption Christmas Pageant on the last day of school before break. I loved these two pictures because it shows how beautiful they are without all of the terrifying make-up that some parents put on the little's unnatural and scary.
2. These are the Christmas stockings made by my KG 2/1's. Awesome colors-these kids are so good at coloring!
3. Dang, check out that chicken! But really, it was delicious and the vegetables were incredible, probably due in large part to the fact that I don't eat enough veggies here and so have developed scurvy. Just kidding...but really. One of my students had me over to their house for a day of hanging out and eating, and it was perfect. Just enough to get my mind off of not being home for the holidays but not too overwhelming either.

Full Moon Party:
Yes folks, I went to a Full Moon Party at the infamous Haad Rin Beach in Koh Pha Ngan. It was absolute insanity, and while it was the most fun I've had in a long time, I will never do it again. Definitely a one-time deal! It was great to meet up with an old acquaintance from UVM who is now a good friend and to meet foreigners from all over the world. Actually, that part wasn't that great. I've come to realize that outside of Ubon and other non-touristy areas of Thailand, foreign tourists are typically rude, entitled, jerks. They treat the locals like they are stupid when it's actually the foreigner's fault for not making an effort to learn the language prior to arriving in a largely non-English speaking country.  Be a traveller, not a tourist. Sorry for the rant, it was just so aggravating to see arrogant Australians and Americans and Brits being so horrible to people on the island just trying to make a living. Anyhoo, Southern Thailand is of course so beautiful that I can't wait to go again and try a quieter, less-travelled place! **There aren't really any pictures of the actual parties themselves because carrying a camera wasn't really an option. Plus, there are certain things better left to the imagination.**

This is Dao, one of my Thai co-workers. The picture was taken in the Srisaket province                             at my boss' father's one-hundred day death memorial. The girl to the right is Bpoo, another co-worker. She doesn't think she's beautiful! Crazy...


My yoga instructor Nook at her beautiful wedding! Check out those feather eyelashes.

Sent with his "butterfly hands." They had to make wings with the outline of their hands while learning about butterflies!

Tete (tee-tee) spelling during playtime.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave."

So this blog was initially written as an email which I sent out to a bunch of people. But I don't have an email for everyone so here it is. I wrote this in a minute of quiet inspiration in reflecting on the past week in regards to the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as well as the apparent coming of world's end. It's impossible to remain untouched and unfazed by last week's shooting. We are all parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, teachers, police, first responders, etc. We are also humans, and in that way, this calamity has deeply touched us in one way or another. 

I am not sure about you, but the shooting, along with the many others which the United States has been party to in the last few years, has made me question the existence of God or a higher power. This is not meant to offend anyone, and I am truly sorry if it does. I was raised a Catholic, but have found in recent years and due to personal events in my life, that I consider myself to be more spiritual than anything. I think that religion has the ability to free you, but it also has the ability to cage you, and that is what it was doing for me. I honestly cannot believe that any God, that any higher power, could possibly have wished this on the world (if they do exist). I also am confused and a bit angry because it seems that everyone who I talk to who IS religious thanks God for everything wonderful and good in this world, but the minute something calamitous or heartbreaking occurs, there is just NO way that He could be responsible for it. That, to me, is like saying you will only be friends with someone when the times are good. I do not think that God is without fault and in that way, I believe that he would willingly accept the blame for the things for which He is responsible. Again, it just baffles me that God is responsible for everything good in this world, yet none of the bad. 

Every single one of you in entitled to your own beliefs and opinions, but I for one feel that in the past few years, I have become much more open to learning different religious, philosophies, and general ways of thinking outside of the bars of strict religious  teachings. I have posted a video at the bottom of this blog. It truly is an eye-opening insight into the concept of Religion VS Jesus, and how Jesus the man would not have done many of the things which religion so often calls for. 

Regardless of my belief's or anyone else's, I am sending my thoughts, prayers, love, and peace to the victims of Sandy Hook and to their families. I will leave you with this quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

"Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment."

Unfortunately, Adam Lanza, the other mass shooters, and those around the world who have created power by instilling fear, did not ever listen to these words. Perhaps if more of us did, such senseless tragedies could be avoided. 
Hello everyone!

Well it's almost 8:00 PM on Friday the 21st...and I am still alive here in Thailand. Hope things are going equally well in the western world. I was just thinking over the past week or so about a few things. First, I wondered what I should be doing if in fact the world was ending today. I am 10,000 miles away from home and was thinking about how I would much rather be around my family than the people (though wonderful) I just met. Fran Murray of course brought me back to reality by saying "it wouldn't really matter where you were since we would all be in the same situation." Thanks Dad.

Secondly, the events of last Friday, December 14th, acted as a catalyst for a small change within myself and I am sure within many of you. Those vibrant, young, innocent children will never have the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike, go through a high school break-up, find true love, come home drunk knowing what they were in for the next day, travel around the world, or do anything on the infinitely long list of life which we have all been so lucky to have experienced. The whole situation made me realize so many things all at once, a reawakening just as my car accident had been (in a sense).

Far too often, we do things because we feel responsible for others or because we just feel like "we should." While these are often positive things, they do not always equate to our own personal happiness. Our feelings, moods, emotions, and actions create a daily ripple effect on not only our own lives, but on those of others. If you are unhappy doing whatever it is you are doing, realize that your unhappiness does not only affect you, but the people around you. We are certainly not perfect and we are always going to have periods of unhappiness or frustration or anger-it is human nature. However, when possible, we should do WHATEVER makes us happy. That might mean saving up to build your dream house on Lake Sunapee; it might mean quitting your job, even though it pays the bills, because it is using up precious time of which we have so little to waste; travel around the world. Just do you and do it well because we only have one shot at this whole life thing. I am starting to babble, but I just hope that you all had similar realizations this week. Those children and unfathomably courageous teachers will never, ever have the opportunities to live this beautiful life that we do. Even the bad things that happen to us usually have a positive outcome in the end, at least to some extent.

I have some advice which I am sure you are all already aware of. I know many of you are older and wiser than me, but hear this 23 year-old out:

1. Take a moment out of each day to think about something you are grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.
2. If you think you should call someone who you haven't spoken with in some time, do it. There is probably a reason beyond our control that the thought popped in your head.
3. Tell your loved ones just how much you love and appreciate them. You truly do not know if it could be the last time you get the chance.
4. Find the beauty in everything. Trust me, it's in there somewhere.
5. Do not waste your time on someone who does not reciprocate your love, affection, and/or friendship. The longer you hold on, the harder it is to let go-even if the person is not who you are meant to be with. Doing everything for someone is being a doormat, not loving them.
6. Start something new...not tomorrow or next week. Be it a painting, a blog, exercise, smiling-whatever. Just start a new path from the one on which you have been treading.
7. This one may take a little longer, but write a "bucket list" or "to do" list or something that will give you physical proof that you have dreams and goals that you can check off. Just because you are 56 years old does not mean you still can't make that trip you've always wanted to go on.
8. Live in the present. You can think about the future, but don't let it define your actions now. Reflect on the past, but do not let it define you-that can be crippling.
9. Spend time each day thinking about someone other than yourself.
10. Regardless of your religion, pray, reflect, meditate, or send love to not only the victims of last week's shooting, but to those suffering every single day all over the world. Tragic and jarring as the Sandy Hook shooting was, there are people who you can still help RIGHT NOW.

I am sure there are a million things I could add to that list, but this email has already taken up much of your time (thank you for reading it by the way). I appreciate you all to one extent or another, and I love you all in the same way. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Kwanza, and Merry/Happy every other holiday you may celebrate. I hope this wasn't too confusing for you all, I just had a moment of clarity I suppose, and hope it came across that way. See you all later.

Love, Emma

P.S. This is a pretty moving video for anyone, including all of the "religious" people out there. (Jesus VS Religion)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Sunrise

Again, I am not going to write a full blog right now; I'm way too tired and delirious from waking up at 5:00 AM the last two mornings. I'll post some pictures anyway for you to look at! On Sunday evening, I went to Pha Taem National Park (near Khong Chiam, Thailand...basically the border of Laos and right on the mighty Mekong River). I went with three of the other Americans, as well as my host mom/boss, her husband, and Miss Wanna (another Thai teacher, Busaba's best friend). Miss Wanna would fit in so incredibly well in Vermont/Western Massachusetts it's not even funny. Sweet jewelry, snazzy patchwork pants, and a super chill attitude. Anyways, Pha Taem is famous because of it's 3,000 year-old cliff paintings and mushroom rock'll see in a bit. Enjoy the pictures and feel free to ask me any questions via Blogger comment box! Peace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beautiful Assumption Kindergartners!

Loy Krathong Festival (day of). 

Robin. Kid's got swagger.
Beautiful girl.


In full makeup still, but ready for the hula-hoop relay.

"Sport's" Day Parade


"Sport's" Day Parade